With another Burning Man wrapped up for the year, and fall weather beginning to set in, music fans and performers are starting to turn their attention away from summer parties and back towards their regular routine. With this change of season in the air, many DJs are no doubt wondering how to get DJ gigs throughout the fall and winter to keep them from being relegated to their bedroom until the next festival season rolls around. Of course summer is the best time to be a DJ, but if you’re serious about improving your skills and building a career, you’ll have to find creative ways of playing gigs throughout the year. Here are a few ideas to look into for how to get DJ gigs in the off-season.
Don’t Overlook Your Local Club Scene
Whether you live in Los Angeles, California or Eau Claire, Wisconsin, getting to know your local scene is key if you want to get regular gigs throughout the year. Many DJs wish they lived in a bigger city where they could have more access to gigs, when in fact living in a small market can often be an advantage when it comes to finding gigs. While there might be hundreds of DJs vying for a one-hour spot on a Tuesday night in L.A., you may be one of the only people in your town with the right skills to rock a feature set on a weekend at a small local club.
Make Your Own Gig at a Local Venue
Playing local gigs sounds great, but what if you live in a town that doesn’t even hold DJ nights? In that case, rather than sitting around and wishing you lived somewhere else, it’s your job to convince your local venues that they need to put on club nights to showcase local DJs. Do some research on the local venues and the sort of clientele they cater to. Maybe there’s an opportunity they’re missing out on that you could help them exploit.
Host Your Own Gig at Home
If the local venues won’t help you out, you can always take matters into your own hands and throw your own club night at your house. Not only is it easier to get people to come to a party at your own house, but playing house parties is one of the best things you can do to improve your DJ skills. If you throw successful parties on a regular basis, not only will you become a better DJ faster, you’ll also become a household name in your community. This, in turn, could give you the skills and clout you need to convince that local venue to let you put on a DJ night.
Look for Alternative Venues
If the local bar and club scene really isn’t doing it for you, you can always get creative with your venue choices. Maybe a new local clothing store is opening, and they want someone to provide music for their launch event. Maybe your local sports team needs someone to keep everyone pumped up between plays. Or maybe there’s a big arts community in your town that needs someone to entertain at arts events like gallery openings and museum parties. The key is getting to know your local scene well and identifying situations where having a DJ could be a benefit to whoever’s holding the event.
Take It to the Streets
If you’re really stuck on how to get DJ gigs, you could always take your skills to the streets and try your hand at DJ busking. All you need is a small battery powered speaker system and a few portable performance tools and you’re on your way. (Obviously you should always check your local bylaws to make sure that amplified music is permitted, and get a busking license if it’s required.) Of course, random pedestrians might not appreciate if you set up a giant DJ rig in the middle of the sidewalk and start blasting beats at full volume, but if you can keep the volume at a reasonable level and incorporate some sort of unique performance element into your set, this could actually be a great way to earn some cash and make a name for yourself as a performer.
So there you have it. Next time you feel like you don’t know how to get DJ gigs in the off-season, try out a few of these options. With any luck, playing out regularly throughout the year will help you earn enough as a DJ to help you quit your day job and start to DJ full time. Then, once you understand how to get DJ gigs when the opportunities are slim, you’ll have an even better chance next summer of scoring a slot in that festival you’ve been dying to get into.
Want more tips on how to get DJ gigs? Check out our lessons on Getting DJ Gigs and Promoting Yourself. Or take the opportunity of some down-time to improve your skills by checkout out our online DJ school.
By now, if you haven’t seen the DJ movie We Are Your Friends – an EDM-themed film starring Zac Efron as a rising-star DJ – you’ll at least have heard about it. While some audiences found the film entertaining, from a critical perspective, this attempt to bring the world of EDM to the silver screen was a complete and utter failure – just try to find a positive review of the film and you’ll get an idea of what the critics had to stay.
So is getting out to see We Are Your Friends a worthwhile use of an evening for someone who wants to learn to DJ? Whether or not you decide to see the film is up to you, but taste and critical views aside, there is something that all DJs can learn from this ill-fated DJ movie.
The Mainstreaming of EDM
One thing you won’t learn from watching We Are Your Friends is how to actually become a good DJ. Sure, there are some shots of Efron’s character recording samples and making tracks with his laptop, but there’s really nothing here about how to DJ well. Instead what you get is a Hollywood version of the EDM culture surrounding the art of DJing, and this film’s portrayal of that culture tells us something interesting: If Zac Efron is starring in a movie about what you do, you’re no longer part of a subculture.
Regardless of whether or not you liked the film, the mere fact that this DJ movie exists tells us that EDM has been fully embraced (and exploited) by mainstream culture. Considering the fact that it can take years to get a Hollywood movie from script to screen, this means that EDM culture has been in the mainstream for a while now.
One reviewer from Consequence of Sound summed up the cultural implications of this film like this: “Even setting aside for a moment that We Are Your Friends feels several years late to its own party — the EDM wave it aims to catch has by most metrics crested by now — the film is still somehow both cloyingly of-the-moment and instantly obsolete.”
What This Means for DJs
Does this mean EDM culture is over? Definitely not; big name DJs are still making bucketloads of money playing to massive audiences around the world, and they’ll probably continue to do so for years to come.
What this does mean is that, as a DJ, you can’t simply get by on the cool factor of being a DJ anymore. Let’s face it – DJs are everywhere these days. So rather than fading into oblivion as just another wannabe DJ, you’ll need to find ways to set yourself apart and become known as a real artist.
How do you do that? The best way is to simply work as hard as you can on your craft. At Spin Academy, we’ve got online video tutorial lessons on everything from understanding the basics of how DJ gear works to tips on getting gigs and promoting yourself.
If you’re not putting in the effort to improve your skills, then you’ll most likely end up getting lost in the noise of the EDM wave just like Zac Efron’s DJ movie will. But if you’re really set on improving your skills and setting yourself apart as a DJ with real talent and artistic abilities, then you could end up building yourself a successful DJ career that will continue long after the EDM craze has died down.